Hey-o, LA the Cinema Sage here. Over the last several weeks I’ve been to the movies quite often but what with the election and the world going to shit and trying to get cleared to go back to work but in a different department and that despite adding 10mgs of escitalopram to the mouthful of other wonder drugs I swallow every morning my anxiety is still so bad that some days it’s really, really hard to function at all. Like it’s too difficult to comb my hair and trying to decide if I want coffee or tea will make me cry so I grab another Sprite and then cry some more because Sprite is making me fatter and it’s wrecking the food budget…so yeah, blogging about movie reviews just hasn’t been a priority. However today I’m here on this plane of existence and functioning well enough to change out of my bathrobe into actual clothes. (3rd day running! Whoo! Go me!) What better way to celebrate being quasi-human than to talk about the things I do in the dark with a roomful of strangers?
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – They warned us right there in the title, didn’t they? Do NOT go back for another helping of this lame action series. But it was Mick’s turn to pick and while my husband has excellent taste in picking second wives his movie choices are at best unimaginative. The Jack Reacher sequel wasn’t so much bad as it had been done before. Done to death. I was literally reciting the dialog three beats ahead of the characters speaking their lines. Every story ‘twist’ was so hackneyed I was embarrassed for everyone involved- us, the crew, the cast, the media flacks, heck, even the kid who had to sweep up the spilled popcorn between showings. Was there anything good about this tired sequel? The meat hammer. I liked the meat hammer. At one point Reacher and his reluctant partner in adventure are fighting bad dudes in a restaurant kitchen and she doesn’t have a gun so she improvises. A meat hammer. It doesn’t fire bullets, but up close this thing WILL put a serious hurt on someone. Being a meat hammer kind of gal I appreciated the nod toward those of us who like our weapons blunt and surprisingly potent.
LA the Cinema Sage’s recommendation? Wait for this on Netflix and watch on a night when you are wanting distraction but nothing you care to get emotionally involved with.
Now while we’re on movies you can recite along with I took Sebastian to see…
Rocky Horror Picture Show – Actually on the same night as Reacher. When we were buying tix for the former we saw it listed on the marquee and immediately got our admission to the late night (but not midnight) special showing. After the Tom Cruise snore fest we had just enough time to get Mick home, load up with supplies for Rocky and get back to the Cineplex. Sebastian had watched the dvd and has gotten my copy autographed by Bostwick, Quinn, and Little Nell, but he’d never seen it on the big screen. Demented with glee we had our newspapers, squirt bottle, playing cards, toast, and confetti. Unfortunately we didn’t have rice or party noisemakers, nor were either of us in costume. I considered toilet paper (“Great Scott!”) but thought we had enough stuff for our impromptu outing. It worked out fine. With only 15 times under my belt I was no expert but I think I was the only one who’d ever been before and the small but enthusiastic house all giggled and cheered when my shouted questions and snarky remarks were answered by the people on screen. Sebastian and I tossed our stuff and shot our water bottle (normally it’s the cat punisher) and sang along loudly. (Of course he knew the songs, what kind of mother do you take me for? The soundtrack cd lives in the car and he’d been exposed since birth. Hell, I got a snotty phone call from Sebastian’s 2nd grade teacher about his show-stopping rendition of ‘Dammit, Janet’ during recess.) My son had a faboo time and is glad he’s not a virgin anymore.
Hacksaw Ridge – Another Mick pick, but I’m glad I saw it. As always there’s the clash between art and artist, where is the line if you like the former and loathe the latter? My beef with Mel Gibson actually predates his first anti-Semitic drunken spree and goes all the way back to his childhood in a nearby town and his Holocaust denying father’s decision to up his family and immigrate to Australia to avoid Mel’s elder brothers being drafted. Gibson Sr seemed to hate pretty much everyone and everything, including his wife who he impregnated with 10 kids between beatings. Yes you have to take gossip with big boulders of salt but the stench of Hutt Gibson’s cruelty still clings to Salisbury Mills. Mel comes by his love of misanthropy and snuff porn quite honestly. This is one fucked up clan.
Anyway, Hacksaw Ridge. Color me impressed. Yeah, Mel got to indulge his love of gore- all spraying guts and blood and chewed up bodies turned hamburger, but to an end this time. Desmond Doss’s story is noble. His values impossible to find fault with. His bravery unquestionable. But it’s the core decency of the man that is the real message. As crazy as it sounds Mel Gibson made a movie that celebrates and honors decency. Basic- no bones, no frills, no creed, no fricken side (left, right, Dem, GOP, etc, etc), just bottom line human decency. And how brilliantly straightforward doing the right thing can be. Not easy. No, no, no. Doing right is rarely the comfy hassle-free way to go, but it is always the obvious way if you look with clear eyes and an honest heart. LA the Cinema Critic’s say? See this movie. All of you.
Arrival – Seems a bit foolish to even review this movie, a linguist saves the world? Need you even ask? Words are my life. Their meaning, the shades of meaning, the construction of communication- signs, gestures, pictograms, grunts, State of the Union addresses, I don’t care what the flock the medium is-communication is everything. This movie is about that. If you’re looking for ‘Alien vs Predator’ or ‘Mars Attacks’ or (God help us) ‘Independence Day’ this is not the movie for you. However if you read, if you write, if you travel and have ever gotten into goofy situations because your guidebook and carefully memorized phrases about embassies and bathrooms has failed you, if you believe thinking is better than shooting, if you’ve ever thought about how hard it is to be truly understood, then yes, go see Arrival. At the very least it will give you and your companion something to wrangle over while you have pie and coffee afterward. Four stars out of five. It might have been a fiver but I seriously don’t care for Jeremy Renner, he irks me on the molecular level.
Last, not best but not least we have…
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – How to review this? As a Potterphile? As a movie lover? As a storyteller? I don’t know, a little of each? Newt Scamander is Neville Longbottom without the homely phase. He’s a really decent guy with almost zero people skills and a whole lot of endearing awkwardness. The story is very much told by a Brit. The Americans are an intolerant lot. Quick to anger. Quicker to shoot. Almost entirely without imagination and charm. (See: muggle vs nomaj) Without the built-in hierarchy of station and class to the British eye the sole way of defining Americans is through their occupations and the depth of their wallets. Not an entirely inaccurate view but one that reckons without the American hope of upward mobility and stubborn belief we’re entitled to join the ruling class if hard work and luck are with us. We do NOT settle. Perhaps this is why the sole non-magical lead is so adorable. Jacob Kowalski is a hella good guy. Long after the CGI critters fade and even the story is a blur this one character stands clear and bright in my mind’s eye. There’d best be a place for him in the sequels or I will be seriously ticked off. And what of the sequels? It’s pretty obvious this movie is appetizer and prolog to what comes next. It can stand alone, but just barely. The whole picture felt like an introduction. Nothing wrong with world building and this movie certainly left a lot of interesting alleys to explore. And there’s always the addition of amusing troublesome critters to throw into the mix. Newt has a Hagrid-like blind spot about just how much mischief his collection of rescued animal pals can get into. It was interesting to watch a movie set in the magical world that didn’t have a book first. The Harry Potter movies were always freighted with the expectations of the readers. Without the glares of a billion devoted print loyalists Fantastic Beasts had a chance to see where it wanted to go without being bound by canon. Unfortunately it didn’t go very far. A promising beginning but only a beginning.
LA the Cinema Sage gives Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them a very hopeful 3.5 stars.
And that, my friends, is all I have for the nonce. Much love, your movie-loving pal, ~LA